Facebook signs up to voluntary privacy code in Germany

AFP , Thursday 8 Sep 2011

Facebook move reduces tensions with German government over privacy laws

Facebook said on Thursday it would sign up to a voluntary code of conduct in Germany to protect users' data, the first time the site has agreed to such measures in a nation especially sensitive about privacy.

"We support this initiative towards self-regulation," said the social networking site's director of European public policy, Richard Allan, after a meeting with Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich.

"It can be a very effective way to protect the interests of Internet users," added Allan.

Self-regulation is "especially important in the fast-moving domain of the Internet," said Friedrich in a statement.

Facebook has come under fire in Germany, where privacy is a particularly sensitive issue for historical reasons, after a series of glitches.

In June 2010, Consumer Affairs Minister Ilse Aigner threatened to cancel her Facebook account in protest at what she said was the website's reluctance to make its privacy settings comply with German law.

Facebook is not the only technology firm to run afoul of Germans' concerns about data protection.

Google was forced to delay rolling out its Street View 3D-mapping service to allow residents to block out their homes from public view.

With Thursday's deal, Germany and Facebook appeared to have buried the hatchet.

"With Facebook's willingness to sign up for this self-regulation ... the debate over the extent to which German data protection law applies to Facebook has been considerably defused," the interior ministry said.


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